Channel Icon Vitagliano Leaves Dell, Eyes New Opportunities

Frank Vitagliano, a channel icon who has developed close working relationships with thousands of partners over three decades, has decided to leave Dell Technologies and look at new opportunities in the channel.

Vitagliano joined Dell nearly four years ago as vice president of channel sales in what was characterized at the time as a channel blockbuster -- bringing the onetime direct company much-needed channel credibility as it accelerated its transformation into a channel superpower.

Dell Global Channel Chief John Byrne said Vitagliano has played a "big role" in Dell's channel success. "He has done wonderful things here," said Byrne. "I want to thank him personally and I wish him nothing but the very best."

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Vitagliano said it has been a "ton of fun" to be part of the Dell channel transformation.

"I went to Dell four years ago to help expand the routes to market," he said. "It's been an extraordinary transformation. I am really glad to have been part of it and to have helped set the trajectory to a strongly engaged channel model. I am leaving a lot of good friends."

To be fair, Vitagliano said Dell was on its way to becoming a channel power with or without him.

"It would have continued to evolve with or without me," he said. "I wasn't the driving force, but I think I helped. When I joined Dell a lot of partners understood that the channel was going to be an integral part of their go-to-market strategy. It helped a bit with the perception, but the truth is the Dell channel model has evolved under strong leadership from the beginning, starting with Greg Davis [Dell's first channel chief and current Dell senior vice president], Cheryl Cook [former Dell global channel chief and current head of partner marketing], and now Gregg Ambulos [North America channel chief] and John Byrne. Dell is a formidable company and channel organization. There shouldn't be any debate about that."

Vitagliano said he leaves with the Dell channel team firing on all cylinders under Byrne. "I think Dell is going to do great," he said. "They are extraordinarily well positioned. Dell has a lot of channel talent."

Vitagliano said the timing for his departure was right given that Dell completed the acquisition of EMC in September – the largest acquisition in IT history – and is set to unveil a unified channel program that will go into effect Feb. 1.

"The timing for me was really good now that the acquisition has been completed," he said in an interview with CRN. "I felt it was a good time for me to move on and look for other challenges. I am just beginning to explore other opportunities."

Vitagliano, in fact, said he is excited about continuing to work in the industry he has been passionate about since he started working at IBM in the early 1970s under channel legend Dave Boucher, who headed up distribution and marketing for IBM during a period of astronomical channel growth.

"I love this industry," he said. "I plan to stay in it. I don't know what I'll do or where I'll land, but I want to continue to be a part of the community. It's been really enjoyable to spend so much time with solution providers and distributors."

Before joining Dell, Vitagliano spent seven years at Juniper Networks, where he was senior vice president of worldwide channels, and 33 years at IBM where he started his career in the channel, working steadily up the ranks to become vice president of worldwide channels.

David Nahabedian, co-founder of Integration Partners, Lexington, Mass., No. 128 on the 2016 CRN Solution Provider 500, said it is Vitagliano's ability to forge and nurture close personal relationships with partners that makes him so successful.

"As a business owner, you have to have a strong relationship with the people in the channel that you partner up with because at some point you are going to have a tough time and need to have tough conversations," he said. "It makes those conversations much easier when you have a good personal relationship with that person and like and trust that person. That has always been the case for us with Frank."

Nahabedian, who was named an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in 2014, said he and his partner have always made that tight personal relationship a criteria for doing business with a company. Integration Partners bet big on Juniper when Vitagliano headed up that channel program from 2006 to 2013 and then made a bet on Dell once Vitagliano joined.

"We have always had really good success when we partnered with companies Frank has been at, with Juniper at the top of the list," said Nahabedian. "We have grown that business 100 percent in the past two years, and it all started with Frank."

When Vitagliano went to Dell, which up until then had been a "minimal" relationship for Integration Partners, it made sense to re-evaluate the partnership, said Nahabedian.

"When Frank went to Dell it gave them credibility in our eyes -- specifically to their commitment to the channel and to us. It was a very easy investment to look at because we knew with Frank being so closely aligned with the Dell channel it would be a worthwhile investment both financially and as far as use of our time," he said.

Now that Vitagliano is exploring other opportunities, Nahabedian said, Integration Partners is looking forward to possibly partnering with him in the future. "We are two for two with Frank," he said. "Wherever he goes we'll take a look at it and see if it fits into our business."

Michael Goldstein, CEO of LAN Infotech, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said Vitagliano's appointment at Dell was a watershed moment for the company.

"Dell had that non-channel reputation and when they brought Frank on board all of a sudden they were looked at as a channel friend," he said. "Partners know and trust Frank. That made a big difference to Dell and before that Juniper and, of course, IBM, where he was the equivalent of Mickey Mantle on the New York Yankees. I remember when no one could ever think of him leaving IBM."

Goldstein said he is also looking forward to see where Vitagliano lands and then partnering with that company. "We all like to do business with people we trust," he said. "That is why so many partners love Frank. He brings channel religion to the companies that he works for."

Paul Bay, group president of the Americas for Ingram Micro, the world's largest distributor, called Vitagliano a "channel treasure" that he also looks forward to working with in some capacity in the future."Frank is an industry icon," said Bay. "It's important because he understands the entire channel ecosystem and how distribution can play in it. That goes back to his days at IBM, Juniper and, of course, Dell."

The channel intellectual property that Vitagliano brings to the industry is critical in building successful partnerships, said Bay. "It's very, very important because he has seen the channel continue to evolve," he said. "He has been around the channel for a long time and understands the skills that distribution continues to add to the marketplace. Frank has visibility to that from the early days."

Vitagliano, for his part, said he sees the channel playing an even more critical role in helping customers solve business problems in the strategic service provider cloud era.

"I am very optimistic," he said. " I think you will see the importance of the channel continue to grow with all of the concerns relative to security and data. You have to have partners that understand the business and can help customers as trusted advisers make those hard decisions. I am very optimistic about the future."